Kalayaan: The Road to Our Independence

Kalayaan: The Road to Our Independence
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It’s that time of year again where Pilipino communities in the Philippines and the diaspora come together and celebrate our Independence Day through parades and festivities.

Unfortunately I was not able to attend my local Philippine Independence Day Parade  here in NYC due to bad weather and personal reasons so I sadly had to miss seeing everyone dressed up in traditional attire and dancing on the streets. From our local Igorot community dancing along Madison Ave to Kinding Sindaw’s march and performance in Southern Mindanao traditional dances particularly Meranaw, on stage which has always been a highlight to my experiences in the parade since I was a child prior to knowing Tita Potri, the head of the dance and cultural group. I even missed the well known Jeepney that debuted on the parade that has been popping up in news and social media as of late. That brings back nostalgia of back home doesn’t it? All of this is in celebration of our Independence Day that is today, June 12. But what exactly does Independence Day mean to us? It is a topic that gets stuck on my mind whenever it comes around this time of year. What exactly does it mean to be independent? Yes we are our own sovereign nation, we have won our freedom from Spain and the U.S. but are we really and truly free?

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It is the year 2016, exactly 118 years since we declared our independence from Spain yet we are still named after a dead Spanish King? Why? Why haven’t we managed to change the name of our islands yet and still hold on to a name that represents our colonization. Filipino. Originally a word that referred not to us, who were called Indios and our respective ethnic groups, but to the Spaniards who resided on our islands. Let us not forget that after Spain we were also forcibly colonized and taken by the U.S. after they paid Spain for our islands during the Treaty of Paris in 1898. When people think the Philippines gained their independence a long time ago lets put it this way. Although we as a people acknowledge our independence and birth of a nation 118 years ago, it has only been 67 years since we were finally released from the U.S. as their colony in July 4, 1946. Let me repeat that again. It has only been 70 years since we were a colony of the U.S. That is not long ago. Many of our grandparents and great grandparents were born years prior to or during the Americans occupation on our islands. This colonial mentality and dependence on the U.S. that exists today within our people is due to the fact that it wasn’t that long ago since we were under U.S. rule.

Our struggles of independence starts from when Ferdinand Magellan and the first Spaniards arrived on our shores to the present U.S. militarization within our waters and of China’s claims on the Spratl Islands. We as a people are still fighting the dictatorship and corruption within our governments, institutions, and of corporations who continue to push people out of their ancestral lands for logging, mining, and the building of resorts. Many, especially in Mindanao, are refugee’s within their own lands, often fleeing the conflicts and militarization happening in their homes. Just look at what has been going on with the Lumad over the past year where they still haven’t been able to go back because of the military occupation of their homes and schools. We continue to see our people struggle with poverty, this wide gap of those who are either rich or in poverty, with more than half of the population below the poverty line, basically no middle class, and a very small population of the wealthy. Of the exploitation of our people whether it is sexual exploitation to physical labor both within the Philippines and abroad. Our how about how Tagalog is pushed onto the hundreds of different ethnic groups, leaving their native languages to become seen as something less, referred to as a simple dialect when it is its own language., and those languages disappearing in favor of Tagalog. Where everything goes back to what some like to call Imperial Manila, leaving the provinces and the rest of the country especially the Bisayas and Mindanao to the dust.

We may not be under Spain or the U.S. any longer but how can we call ourselves free when the colonial mentality and oppression is still there? How can we as a people truly say we are independent when we are still dependent on the U.S. and many still continue to suggest we would be better off being a colony once again or more a state? Remember that petition going around awhile back? How can we say we are independent when we are sending our children as OFW’s as our country’s number one exports to countries such as the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Australia, to get an education outside the Philippines, to get better paying jobs to help support their families back home, and only to come back when they are old enough to retire or sometimes never returning back? How are we truly independent and free when the cries of our people and the nation are so loud but unheard? Of when the U.S. still has control over us through politics, economics, culture, and when we as a people are denied our basic rights?

If we are truly to be free and shout out kalayaan, we must liberate ourselves and minds to truly to be self reliant and self dependent from foreign countries. We must address the issues our people face and fight to uplift them from poverty and to protect our natural resources from those who want to abuse them.

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About The Author

Executive Editor & Founder

Ligaya is the Executive Editor & Writer at Pinoy-Culture.com. She lives in NYC with her two dogs and spends her time reading, writing, collecting and buying books online and in safe haven, Strand Bookstore, watching her guilty tv show pleasure Vikings, and overdosing herself in coffee as a certified caffeine addict. Her book, Diwatahan: A Look Into the Precolonial Beliefs, Practices, Myths, & Folklore of the Philippines, is currently in progress and is scheduled to be published in Summer of 2017.

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